There are a lot of variables that influence how long CBD takes to work. Because of these things, CBD can start work anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours after using it. So how long does CBD take to work? Let’s look at all the variables.
Sometimes people try CBD and nothing happens. And that’s a bummer. To give you an idea of when to expect CBD to work its magic – or at least begin to take effect – we need to get into some of those factors, first.
1. Your Body is Unique
No two people are exactly alike. Our bodies respond differently to CBD even if we use the same CBD product and dose as someone else.
There are several factors related to your individual biology that affect how you respond to CBD and how quickly, including:
CBD is fat soluble and absorbed and stored in fat cells. The more body fat you have, the more fat cells there are to hang onto the CBD.
If you have a high BMI, CBD will take longer to work. In turn, the effects will also likely last longer.
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Your metabolism isn’t just about how well you burn calories, but also how quickly and efficiently your body processes and breaks down compounds like CBD.
People with a fast metabolism will metabolize CBD faster than someone with a slow metabolism. As a result, the CBD will take effect faster, but also wear off faster. On the flipside, someone with a slow metabolism may need longer to feel the effects, but the CBD will stay in the body longer and produce longer-lasting effects.
2. Your state of health
You overall state of health plays a role in how your body responds to CBD and other drugs and supplements.
Having medical conditions that affect your liver or kidney function can interfere with your body’s ability to process and eliminate CBD. Conditions that affect gastric emptying, circulation, and other body processes can also impact how long CBD takes to work.
3. Your age
Age may be but a number when it comes to skinny jeans or a hipster beard, but it matters when it comes to the metabolism of substances, including CBD.
Metabolism and elimination slows as we get older, which can cause drugs to pass through the body slower and hang around in the bloodstream longer.
A decrease in body water, reduced intestinal blood flow, and increase in body fat can also make substances hang around longer. These things are all associated with aging.
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4. What’s in your belly
If you’re using edibles, what’s in your stomach matters.
Edibles need to work their way through your digestive system before reaching your bloodstream. The more food you have in your stomach, the longer that’ll take.
If you take it on an empty stomach the CBD will get to your bloodstream faster, making the effects kick in faster, too.
5. How you take your CBD
Different consumption methods have a different onset. It boils down to how fast the CBD is able to get into the bloodstream.
Let’s look at how long each method takes to work.
If you take it by mouth
Swallowed forms of CBD, like edibles, take longer to work than other methods of delivery—typically one to two hours. Blame this on the digestive process.
The CBD is absorbed in the digestive tract first, then active ingredients travel to your liver via your bloodstream. Your liver metabolizes the active ingredients and then releases them back into your bloodstream. Only then does the CBD start to take effect. CBD beverages, on the other hand, sometimes take effect a little quicker.
If you take it sublingually
CBD that’s absorbed sublingually works quickly—usually within 15 to 45 minutes.
The quick onset is thanks to the quick absorption of the CBD through the mucous membranes in your mouth, mainly under your tongue.
CBD lollipops, lozenges, and gum are often lumped in with edibles, but they’re technically not the same. These forms are ingested, but not swallowed. Hence the big difference in the onset of effects.
Other sublingual forms include CBD sprays, tinctures, and oils.
If you smoke or inhale it
Inhaling CBD is the quickest way to get the effects, typically within around 10 minutes.
When you inhale CBD, around half of it is absorbed into your bloodstream through your lungs in just a matter of minutes, which is why it starts to work so fast.
That said, inhalation is also the most dangerous method of delivery with several known negative health effects. The dangers aren’t result of the CBD, but rather smoke – which contains numerous toxins and carcinogens, and additives in vape cartridges, which evidence has linked to severe lung injuries.
You can inhale CBD by way of vaping CBD oil, smoking cannabis flower in a joint, or CBD concentrates in a vape pen.
If you use a topical or skin cream
CBD that’s applied directly to the skin takes from 45 to 60 minutes to work.
This includes products like CBD-infused creams, lotions, salves, massage oils, and even transdermal patches.
6. Potency and dosage
Common sense – and research – tells us that the more CBD you take, the quicker the onset.
The potency of the product you use and how much you take affect the time it takes to work.
While we’re on the subject of potency, quality plays a pretty big role in the potency of a product.
To ensure you’re getting a quality product, look for brands that are lab-tested by a third party to help you avoid products that contain additives and impurities that can affect potency—not to mention safety!
You should also look for products made with broad-spectrum or full-spectrum CBD oil as these contain other cannabinoids along with CBD, and are less processed which preserves other compounds.
7. Consistency of use
Regardless of how fast you may feel some of the effects after taking CBD, taking it consistently is key to getting all the most benefits.
The general rule of thumb is to find a dose that works and stick with it, taking it every day for a few weeks. This gives the CBD the opportunity to build up in your body and potentially stimulate your endocannabinoid system.
There are a lot of factors that impact how long CBD takes to work. Finding the right product and dose for you and giving it time to work should help you find the sweet spot.
Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a freelance health and lifestyle writer that has written for Healthline, Medical News Today and Verily Magazine just to name a few.